Apples to Apples

I don’t know if you have played the game apples to apples? Apples to Apples is a wildly popular and relatively simple card-based board game. The objective is to simply match nouns to adjectives, but the results are often hilarious. If you have played it you know what I mean. It becomes hilarious because we describe the same thing in different ways based upon our experience. Based upon the cards we have been dealt (both in the game but more so in life.) Us using different words to describe the same reality is one reason of why unity within the Church can be challenging. Now, on the other hand, we also use the same word to describe different realities…
I can use the word “apple” to describe the fruit. I can also use it to describe a certain computer brand. I can use it to refer to New York City, the “Big Apple”. We use the same word to describe wildly different physical realities and revelations. One you eat. One you use. One you visit or live in. Us using the same words but meaning totally different things is another piece of why unity within the Church can be challenging.

So what to do, if we are at a deadlock in terms of understanding what we mean with our different words? How do we communicate what we really mean in a way that brings healing rather than fear and segregation?

I believe we must go beneath the surface of the obvious physical revelation. Christ Himself goes below the surface into the grave and we must follow Him. As Church, we are part of His body so we must follow Him where He goes. We must take a bite out of the apple to know how it tastes and to realize its function. We must break it. We must use the Apple computer to realize what it’s purpose is, we must “break it in”, and we must enter and live in New York City if we hope to truly know it and it’s people, we must “break a new frontier”.

An interpretive look from a distance, making a judgment call about any of these three objects, will not provide you with enough information to judge their purpose and know their identity. If this is true about innate objects how much more is it true for real persons and congregations?

If we do eat the apple, if we do use the computer, if we do visit New York we will soon realize that they all carry a different segment of revelation. The apple carries nutrition for life. The computer carries technology that can be used for life. The city carries houses persons and society for life. What are you carrying? To ask that question in honesty and be prepared to listen is a way forward in terms of unity within the Church I believe. To want to know who you are so that we may know God better through each other.

If we investigate these three realities closely, if we go under the surface deep enough, we will discover what science has already shown, that different revelations of reality all consist of the same building blocks. Neutrons, protons, and atoms move in constant interaction with each other. These particles can only be constituted if they, in turn, interact with light or bosons and Higgs particles and such.

In essence, we are being created by Gods light in every single moment. Life springs forth when we share that light with others in relationship. As a Church, we aim to be a place where we can live as true communion, so that we can discover that unity of which we are already a part of but often has such a hard time to see because of how we look at different objects, realities and persons from a safe distance rather than up close. I encourage you to make it personal, to invite the personal encounter into your objective observation. Take the risk of being open and honest about your success and your struggles.

Unity, this knowing who you are as a person (or congregation, or denomination) so that you can know the other, the different person (congregation or denomination), intimately is not only mandated in how creation is being designed and upheld. It is also a direct consequence of us being created in the image of God the Trinity. Three Persons seeing each other’s distinct face but yet so close in Their covenant that they are One God. Unity is not about becoming someone else or being assumed into someone else. Unity is about knowing who you are as person so that you can have true fellowship with another person. So that we as persons might be one. This goes for our own person, our family and for the Church.

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Broken for you

When I wrote about the Church as a dysfunctional family in my last blog post (https://frjakob.wordpress.com/2016/05/04/church-as-dysfunctional-family/)  I admitted that everything is not well within the body of Christ. I would suggest that our inability to see our brokenness as a body continues to be the proverbial log that prevents us from removing splinters in other people’s eyes with accuracy and efficiency. We struggle with recognizing our sin on a personal level which means that our sin affects the other person’s around us often without us even noticing it. As Church, as persons, we struggle together, if one member suffers all the other members suffers as well. Our denial of the presence of wounds in our body affects others, either we want it or not, by default. We were created as communal beings and when we deny this communal identity and misdirect the sacramental reality it holds, we end up blind to who we are as a body.

Would it help with some introspection perhaps? It might help with acknowledging the pain we have caused others. It might help to get a second opinion of our current predicament from a doctor as well. Admitting that the wounds are still there, that they have not been healed and that we need to go to the hospital. Wounds will not heal until they are recognized as such.

For this reason, I sat out to Vancouver to sit under Gordon T Smith’s teachings about the “Meaning of the Sacraments” for a week. During the time there I gained a deeper understanding of how these wounds came to be, why they hurt so much and what kind of wound the different parts of the body have. It is helpful to know each other’s history so that one can avoid offence and move towards an informed language and ways to communicate. During the week at Regent College in Vancouver, it became more and more evident to me that scholastic exercise and method helped in terms of diagnosing the wounds but falls short in terms of actual remedy. Study (which in a very real sense is incorporated humility) is needed in order to get to a point of understanding that we indeed need medicine, but it is not the fullness of medicine. Study and word points to the remedy, it might even be the beginning of remedy but it is still distinct from the remedy. It is interesting that we, as Church have been very faithful in studying but maybe not so faithful in terms of stepping out into the mysteries we don’t understand in faith and let the Holy Spirit do His work as only He can do. We have yet to share the fulness of the remedy…

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With this broken body, the Church, in mind, we approach the mystery of what Jesus says when He says: “This is My body – broken for you.” I believe that He is not only speaking about His own physical, historical body, nor only of the bread and the wine in front of Him. He is speaking about everything that has been broken due to sin. The universe, created by the Word of God suffered violence and brokenness because of Adams sin. In the Word of God, the new Adam, Jesus, that wound is first made manifest but also healed. Jesus faces the wound. He more than faces it, He takes it into Himself. He exposes sin and hangs it on the tree for everyone to see. Then, in a deep mystery orchestrated by the Trinity, the dead wood of the cross transforms into the path of the tree of life with an abundance of the fruits of the Holy Spirit. The material, physicality, dead because of the fall, is resurrected to life once more. Inaugurated in the Church first but also unto the ends of the earth. (Just to be clear, I am not suggesting the guarantee of everyone’s salvation, that kind of calls we must leave to God)

When we confess Christ as Lord, it is this reality we confess. He is the Word of God through Whom the universe is created. Jesus body is still present on the earth by the power of the Holy Spirit in the Church because in Him heaven has landed on the earth. The Church’s claim to holiness (which have been somewhat overemphasized and turned into triumphalism through history) can only be incarnated in that she recognizes her own brokenness. Christ’s perfect nature is revealed through brokenness. If the Church must claim holiness (and claim it She must due to being the body of Christ), She can only base that claim in the process of repentance, in acknowledging that She is not perfect…

“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— 23I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”

It is because of what Jesus says in John chapter 17 that Church unity can’t happen outside of sharing the body and blood of Christ. It can not happen by the study of words and a common definition alone. Just as we need word and sacrament in the local church, we need word and sacrament in the catholic (worldwide) church, otherwise, it is not catholic (proper). To pretend that we are at peace and in unity without sharing the Eucharist would be like being married to someone without consummating the marriage. Or to be baptized in water only, dismissing the baptism in fire (Spirit), or to preach the word to the crowds but withhold love in action (Sacrament), hence the possibility of new life is not possible, to use the words of Gordon T Smith; “it doesn’t take”. Nothing is transformed, it is cerebral only. As God’s family, it is of the essence that we find a way to eat together, to receive the body and blood of Christ together. As long as we don’t, the world will not view us as a family. It will not see our loving Father if we as children always are at odds with each other, that we can not even eat and receive the most basic of human needs, food, together. As children of the incarnated One, we must incarnate what we have have been given or rather we can not claim Incarnation (Christ, the Logos coming in the body) if we refuse to eat His body as children in His family. Diverse, off course but still one.

Given that almost all expressions of Christianity have retained at least a remnant of the Eucharist testifies to the necessity of having a meal. What has been believed throughout time, everywhere, by all, we together with St Vincent of Lerin hold to be true. The issue that has been obscuring the partaking of this heavenly banquet in peace, love and joy seems to be based out of the family of God not agreeing upon the when, how, who and what of the Eucharist. And even though these questions do have value, (God wants to be known by our mind), they might just have gotten a little too much attention. When we give the mind the full attention, we often forget to listen to our heart, and when it comes to the mysteries of God, we must not forget the heart, the nous. We come to the table as adults, yes but we also come to the table as children. We know intuitively what is taking place. Maybe it is a revelation by participation rather than information by transaction?

Fundamentally, I do not believe Eucharistic unity/hospitality is a matter of getting the definition right. I don’t even believe it is about agreeing with the same statements of theology concerning the Eucharist. Fundamentally, unity is not attained by mental ascent. It is folly to believe that we somehow can encapsulate the exactness of how God is working in human language. (Even though these definitions most often arose as a defence of Christian faith. We should not let our passionate defence in war become the way we operate in peace.) That we somehow would be able to formulate a doctrine that we can apply carte blanche to every situation and person.

The way to unity is rather the way of love. The way to partake of the table together is for all of us to recognize that we all have fallen short in understanding and deed. It is a way of listening rather than assertion, of helping each other out rather than condemning. The way of speaking good things about one another rather than accusation and sharing each others pain rather than inflicting it. It is the way of covering each other in prayer, lending our space to one another and putting each other first. It is the way of knowing each other as persons, different but a part of one another. Trinitarian as it were. We need each other to bloom into our personhood. When we love each other, we actively engage the spiritual climate that is the modus operandi of the sacramental life. We lay down our lives for each other. We become broken for each other out of love for one another and at that point we become, in Truth, the body of Christ. Broken for the life of the world.

Church as (dysfunctional?) family

This allegorical blog post is written as a response to the latest Roman Catholic – Evangelical dialogue meeting here in Saskatoon. The meeting was about the nature of the Church.

I am growing up as a part of a dysfunctional family. My grandparents stayed put in their house far away from any society to speak of and over the years failed miserably in communication with my father. They lead a very somber and devout Christian life, in almost perfect witness to the world they were surrounded by defending the belief and values of our family to the point of death even. But, as one of the results of their devotion, they forgot to talk with my father in a way he could understand. My dad, (I guess I should say ‘my father’ because he prefers that) got somewhat disoriented by the lack of communication and the old language and ways that his parents still used. He grew tired of always having to consider his grandparents (and their friends) wishes and impositions to his ways of doing a thing that was more in tune with current society. They were not that relevant anymore, he thought! They didn’t know the appropriate way to respond to a hurting world. After much deliberation, and many warnings from his parents he decided to set himself apart from certain long-held beliefs of his parents.

In the long and tedious studies that ensued he encountered a woman (my mom) who was very structured and seemed interested in what he was discovering. She aided him in shaping and understanding a faith that could be pragmatically brought to the masses in structured forms and with governance. They both loved to study. It is pretty sad because in their study and pursuit of wisdom they forgot to just be with Wisdom.

Eventually, they got married and they grew even more alienated from my grandparents. My grandparents were scandalized by some of the new definitions that my dad discovered about the faith but most of all they were increasingly worried about the importance dad seem to give to himself. Dad wanted the place of honor when the family gathered for supper or counsel. My grandparents gave this to him in the hope that he would lead the family well and into the future. But trouble around the table continued and deepened as dad’s (oops, my fathers) studies continued. Soon enough they were not on speaking terms anymore (really they didnt even speak the same language any longer) and soon after this dad said that his parents (my grandparents) were not welcome at “his” table anymore! (I always wondered how he reached the conclusion that it was his table and not the whole families) and in response, my grandparents said that he and my mom was not welcome to their table (wherever they got that other table from, I don’t know?).

In the chaos that ensued many embarrassing events took place. Everything from lawsuits to outright fistfights and turf wars over property. It got pretty ugly and other families and tribes took notice. Our family reputation took a big hit.

Being a child of a dysfunctional family like this I was prone to protest and rebellion. All of my life I have had this tension within myself, without really knowing why. I have a sense that I could learn a lot from my grandparents but there is no real way of getting a hold of them anymore (they actually seem to have reached a point where they don’t care about anyone else than themselves and their friends). I have a sense that I am a child of parents who now try to mediate between all the factions that have ensued between all their kids (and the grandkids). They seem to have realized some of their mistakes and are trying to backtrack a bit and host family reunions. Some people never show up of course but my grandparents and my parents are on speaking terms again. I think they are planning a meal together soon. Even though it is a very long process to determine what exactly should be on the menu and how it should be served… My grandparents seem to be fine with not knowing what exactly is being served while my parents are pretty serious about nailing the menu down (maybe a result of their rigorous study?).

What I’m slowly realizing is that I can’t understand who I am without looking back on my family history. I can’t move forward without reconciling some of my family histories. For me to move on, to forgive and to ask forgiveness, I need to know what it is I need to ask forgiveness for and what to forgive. 

In the moment of protest, when I swore myself off from all the things (good and bad) that my parents stood for I didn’t realize this. At that time I thought I could invent my own, practice of the faith, build my own table and take my own counsel. That I could just “move on”. It just seems like the more I nurture those inclinations, the further me and my siblings (and our children) are sliding apart. I am realizing that I have to view myself as a part of my family even though I don’t like everything about it.

With that in mind, I recently tried to phone my grandparents in the hope that they could provide some answers in how to mend some of the relationships but all I got was and answering machine: “We are right, you are wrong. Return to our way of doing things and all will be well.” It seemed like a pretty straight forward answer but how do I do that when they don’t even want to spend some time with me (not to mention eat with me and my younger family). I wish that they would let people belong so that they might believe rather than the reverse. To me, they sound grumpy and that they never got over the breach with my parents. Maybe it is unwise to ask counsel from someone who can not even reconcile things with their own children..? I eventually phoned my parents to see if they had any insight into the matter of reconciliation and even though they were very helpful and keen to talk and meet I got the impression that when push comes to shove, I will have to accept their view of what the family should believe if I want to eat at the family table. They don’t really want (or need) my input. 

You see, the sad thing is that our family believe basically the same thing when it comes to the important stuff. We believe that God is Trinity (even though me and my siblings sometimes mix up how that belief came to be), that Jesus is both God and man, that salvation is found in Christ, that Scriptures is the true Word of God and so on. The trouble begins when we get technical and scholastic in how exactly we interpret these essentials. We have talked forever about how Scriptures relates to tradition and in doing so failed to observe the miracles that are continuing to happen in the family. We have talked about what the nature of the family is (not one single time since the great breach has this discussion had all the family members represented… It’s going to be pretty hard to agree upon the nature of the family if only say 67% of the family gets a say in the matter…)

We more or less agree upon these important things but we continue to sweat the smaller stuff like how to dress, talk and sing in the “right” way. I believe that if we took the time to go to the bottom of what we believe and if we track the issues through all the hurt, pain, and history we would discover that our dysfunction and division as a family is  based on our refusal to truly know the one another. It’s because we don’t want to know the one another that we do not want to eat together any longer (da..!).

With that being said I still hope for a true family reunion sometime in the future. Lots of good things are going on as we wait and tarry. However, like any true reunion it needs to contain a real family meal. Otherwise, it is just talking and socializing and that kind of thing is offered by many other families.DSC_0501.

(If you have not guessed it already, in this allegory the Canonical Orthodox Church is symbolized by the grandparents. The Roman Catholic Church are the parents. I am writing as a part of the protestant Church and the grand chldren are the evangelical church. The wife that my father married is the state.)

 

The return of the transformers

The Evangelical Orthodox Church realized very early that there is a tension, an energy, between the things that change and the things that do not. It realized early that, for the Christian testimony to remain the same; it must change. The saying of fr. Alexander Schmemann “the Church must change to remain the same” is in a way our core “slogan”. It is not our slogan because it sounds good and kind of paradoxical, even though that is true. It is our “slogan” because Jesus Himself is the Metamorphosis Symbol of what this paradox entail.

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Monarch Butterfly emerging from it’s chrysalis

It does not mean that we change into something else. It does not mean that we become static and jaded. It entails that Jesus, in His resurrection, transformed us with Himself into the person we were intended to be. The change that happens to us is a restoration, a return to our “unchanged” origin before the fall as it were. Death does not have the final word but has become a doorway into life eternal. We change (i.e die) to resurrect into  who we are supposed to be. As a part of His body we are apart of His resurrection in the most real possible way, every day. The resurrection is evidence of the continuous  transformation and restoration of the whole world, the metamorphosis that is taking place everywhere. The transformation within our heart.

Life abundant is now the default mode rather then just “getting by” until we die. Life is possible once more. And life is found where there is energy. Energy is found where there is tension. Tension is found where there is proximity. And proximity is found where there is covenant. So let us be true to both our name, Holy Covenant Evangelical Orthodox Church and our borrowed “slogan”, they are both expressions that re-minds us of the transformation, the metamorphosis that is taking place in our lives right now because of Christ’s resurrection.

 

Christ is risen from the dead. Trampling down death by death and on those in the tomb bestowing life!

Saving Face

In the light of the golden gate that Jesus entered on Palm Sunday we can identify the shadows that are present as well. The beginning of Holy week is a microcosm of the whole lenten journey. It is a bright sadness. The ones who have journeyed through lent in honesty can now see the end of the journey. But the vision we end up seeing might not be what we expected when we set out some 7 weeks ago. Tears tend to clarify the vision. For some reason the destination we are heading towards looks like a cross, a death rather than the jubilant celebration of overcoming sin and darkness. Much like the disciples we might have expected a conquering of the forces that is oppressing us. We thought that clinging to Jesus, following Him as His disciples would eventually lead to the physical enforcement of true justice. That we could skip the cross section of our walk by trying to obey the law.

Head in Hands

To be fair, Jesus entering into Jerusalem is the beginning of the culmination of a very physical enforcement of true justice, but not like we expected. Not like we anticipated it to look. It is physical in a different way.

It is the physicality of it all that presents us with the reality of the depth of our depravity. We thought that He came to throw the Romans out. Instead He is thrown to the ground. We thought that He would ban capital punishment and torture. Instead He is unjustly tried, tortured and killed. We thought that He would bring the biggest army ever seen to enforce justice, instead He walks the way of pain alone. We thought that He would whip evil out of the world. Instead He is whipped. We thought that He would stop the shedding of blood by one final battle, instead His blood colours the ground red. What is going on here?

The physicality of it all becomes a testimony against us. I sometimes fall into the trap of thinking that my sin and my shortcomings are just thoughts, that they are “spiritual” only. That my sin is somehow separated from any physical reality. Jesus suffering and pain forces me to face myself and the reality of my sin. I am part of the mob shouting to have Him killed every time I close my heart to the suffering and lonely. The least of these are still dying.

It might begin as a thought but if left to grow, that sinful thought will eventually manifest itself in physical reality. Either by doing what is wrong in the light of truth or by ignoring to do what is right in the light of truth. Christ receives blows from my hand every time I sin. The least of these are still crying.

Jesus road to the cross this week forces us to face the reality about ourselves and if we are being truthful, that reality might not look that great. In our efforts to manage the parts of our lives that we try to hide we forgot that nothing can be hidden from His sight. How is that possible? How can Jesus possibly know our innermost struggles and secrets? How can He know our shame? Because He is the victim of it. He physically carried it. His suffering brings light into the darkness because His body is bruised for our transgressions. Through His body reality is revealed.

When He faces the forces of darkness and sin He is facing the things that I have been trying to hide away, keep under lock and key. The things we have done in trying to avoid shame and saving face.

Jesus taking the humble path as a servant is truly astounding because in doing so He lets us know that He is not after shaming us. He is not after to “get us”. He is not enforcing justice from “above” in a way that we have to be afraid of. No, Jesus comes from below to carry the shame we could not carry. He meets our heart in the secret place when that is what we need. All we have to be is honest so that we may encounter our true self and the reality of our situation.

Instead of trying to save face we have to encounter our true face because when we do we will encounter the Face that saves.

Food issues

As a former chef and culinary adventurer I often draw inspiration from the world of food to explain theological points. It turns out that I’m in good company doing so. Jesus Himself used everyday food and drink to reveal the theological point, namely Himself.

There are many theological points out there. History have a way to accumulate them as she walks down the path of eternity. In a way there are as many theological points, belief systems and interpretations of faith as there are people. It would be somewhat obnoxious to think that everyone that has ever lived will eventually recognize one universal truth about reality, yet this is what Scripture gives witness to in several places. (Rom 14:11, Eph 1:10, Phil 2:9 – 11, Rev 5:13)

As generations affected by scholasticism, as children of reason, critical thinking and opinion we have succumbed to the idea that it is the idea/opinion/interpretation about a particular topic or thing that must take precedence in terms of understanding it. In the West we have come to view knowledge as information only. For instance, if two or three (or more) people agrees upon the idea about a particular topic it is that agreement that forms the basis for their activity together.

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If we disagree about the idea then we no longer can have true fellowship since the fellowship were based upon information and interpreting the rules regarding this information in the same way.

So how will we arrive at a universal recognition of reality?

By Reality presenting Itself as a Person rather than an idea only.

This reality (rather than idea) is what separates Christianity from other beliefs. Yet within Christianity we have launched so many different ideas about how to interpret this mysterious reality that we no longer eat at the same table. The irony of christianity is that the way of salvation that was reveled through Jesus Christ in the Eucharist, The theological Point, is being used as one of the prime issues that divides the Church. This does not come as a surprise since both Eucharist and the Church (and the rest of life) is sacramental in their nature. A family can not thrive if they do not occasionally eat together. As the Eucharist goes, so goes the Church and vice versa. They need each other intrinsically. With four or five different major ideas about the Eucharist it is only a natural consequence that the Church is cutting Herself short of Her full potential.

The ideas about the Eucharist took a logical journey if you compare them to major Church splits. (I’v e kept this section brief as not to focus to much on our points of divison)

It began in the 7th century with a lack of communication and common language between Rome and Constantinople that got worse and worse and culminated in the great schism in 1054. The Eucharist was used as the method to enforce the split. Prior to this the Eucharist was received as the body and blood of Christ by the unified Church as the mystery it is, Someone Real you receive in faith. Ideas about the Eucharist were non prevalent. It was a reality to enter rather then an idea to understand.

In the empirical Roman Catholic environment there arose a desire to explain the mystery and the doctrine of transubstantiation was birthed. Maybe this desire was motivated by wanting to define the Roman Catholic Eucharist as separate from the Eastern Orthodox? Maybe it was motivated by wanting to enforce more uniform liturgy and expresson, maybe both? Maybe for some other reason, for whatever reason the Eucharist was now subject to philosophical argument and definition.

Not surprisingly the reformers rejected the idea of transubstantiation because of it’s attempt to exactly describe how the Eucharist works by saying that the bread and the wine turns into, literally, the flesh and blood of Christ. With Calvin in the lead and reason as their sword they launched the idea that Christ was only spiritually present in the Eucharist forming the doctrine called receptionism. This understanding of the Eucharist is quite different from Martin Luthers sacramental union but a logical consequence of the same.

Many other groups most chief maybe the baptists, have adopted the doctrine that was introduced by Zwingli, namely that the Eucharist is primarily something done as a memorial. 

The Church has not agreed upon the Eucharist for quite some time and the Church find herself in a place of division, this is not coincidence. As long as we believe that we will all agree upon a common idea about the Eucharist we miss The Point of the mystery of the Eucharist. The Point is that it was never about ideas of how to interpret, it was always about receiving The Point in faith, having It become a part of you and you a part of It.

All ecumenical dialogue will be found in want until we actually approach the table together, having confessed to one another and forgiven one another for past wrongs, and receive of the body and blood of Christ in a mystery.

As The Point He is the only one that can bring unity. It is in front of Him every knee shall bow and every tongue confess. It is He Who can open the scroll.

A month or so ago I asked a question at a ecumenical forum: “Is there is any hope for the Church to receive the Eucharist together in any foreseeable future and what would that look like?”. The Roman Catholic representative answered basically that we shall hope for that, that is why we are in dialogue but that there are many obstacles. The evangelical representative answered that: “You can come and receive the Eucharist at any anyone of our churches, I’ll hook you up this weekend if you want. To us it’s a none issue.” These comments shows how far apart we are in our understanding of the Eucharist and I don’t propose that we partake of the Holy Sacrament if we understand it to be fundamentally different in terms of what it actually is. What I am proposing is that we pursue a point through relationship where we recognize that we have to step out in faith and share the meal that has the power to transform our understanding of who we are and Who He is by us partaking of His body and blood. Let’s submit to one another in love.

At some point talking about recipes and techniques must evolve into the actual enjoyment of the food, right? What we can learn from food is that no matter how much we talk about it, we won’t truly get to know it unless we eat it, taste it and it becomes a part of us. (Something we truly get to appreciate when we fast in Lent..)

Jesus Himself descended to earth so that we might know Him, not only have information about Him, then the Old Testament would have been enough.

The unity of the Church can not begin with everyone agreeing upon every little technicality about how to prepare the food or what exactly the food is because things like that are all wrapped up in our action. It must begin with an acknowledgement that we receive food from God as gift in a personal way and we enjoy it the most when in company with others. We are dependent on it for life. It becomes part of our being. Not until we surrender to His Reality will we be able to see further than our own interpretation of it. With this being said I have one more comment:

Let’s eat after our fast, acknowledging that all good things, life itself comes from God.

The legacy of the Newsboys generation

Here we are, here I am. Trying to find my way through the spiritual climate laid down by previous generations. Realizing that Christianity is only one generation from being forgotten I am deeply interested in finding a way to accurately hand down the faith to future generations. I am also very interested in letting those future generations in on some things “not to do.”

To be honest the generations here in the West from the Great Awakenings and on handed down a deeply personal, albeit somewhat misguided faith at best; and a heavy handed, ingrown and legal faith at worst. As part of the “Newsboys generation”, being raised in the Western church in the 80s and 90s, I to will not be able to hand down the faith totally accurately either… (Surprise!) We are shaped by our context and some of the spiritual environments we have moved in haven’t been very good. We have also made decisions of darkness which keeps us and past generations from fully handing down the faith. But I believe it helps to acknowledge this, be honest about it and do the hard work of confessing our shortcomings to future generations so that they don’t have to repeat our mistakes right away. We must remember that the Holy Spirit moves throughout and beyond time and is so much greater then our mistakes. IMG_1276

So what are some of the things that we as a 80s -90s generation have struggled with in the formative years of our faith? What are some of the things I need to confess to be able to gain vision of where I find myself so that I may help others see a path? What are some of the logs that have marred my and my generations vision?

Stillness – We often thought we thrived on noise. Big productions, big and spectacular bands that would stir both emotion (imagine that emotion is a kid in a car) and passion (now passion is the kid driving the car…). In deeply personal and often very loud “encounters” with God, filled with emotion turning into passion we decided then and there what we should do with our lives rather then discovering who we are. In the noise of everything we forgot to be silent before the awesome God and truly listen. We forgot our identity in the pursuit for a purpose, to matter.

Humbleness – When we had felt the “true call” on our life by God we often chose to believe that we could change the world because God was with us (who can then be against us). We went on SMTs, we started charitable organizations, we became pastors (often worship and arts pastors), we wrote books about creative worship, the emerging Church and experimented with all kinds of art forms in the sanctuary. We produced records, movies, Christian dating sites and much more. We also left our local Churches for “greater things”. Many of us left the Church altogether. As we started to have children we started to choose our Church based upon our preferences rather than asking how we could incarnate our faith and serve others. We believed that it was up to us to make the world a better place. We confused our passion with the will of the Lord.

Reverence – We also forgot how to and who to revere. When the protestant movement threw out the awareness of the presence of the saints in the Church we eventually lost our touch with how to approach them. We thought that an acknowledgment and reverence of their mystical presence in our midst meant that we worshipped them (as taught by our parents and grand parents). In this legacy we lost our ability to properly revere and take care of our parents and elders. Fed by individualism as creed we started to revere or despise our own image in the mirror in the morning.

Gathered together these struggles created an environment of confusion where the most assertive and marketable idea prevailed. Church became dangerously close to looking like a business with salvation as it’s prime product. This product could be purchased by living the “Christian life”. We didn’t like that our parents put on a happy Christian smile when that didn’t reflect reality all the time, but we ended up doing much of the same just because that is what we knew.

Many of us are still confused because this simple, marketable, slim fit, version of the Christian faith is simply just not enough. The questions we have are deeper and bigger then the current “American mainstream Christian theology” can answer. The truth is that we are tired of the product environment that we were raised in. Unlike our parents we do not want to stick to a product our whole life unless the  truth about this product is revealed to us. Unless the product takes us on a journey towards truth.

If you are a Newsboys generation Christian like me then I encourage you to face these three struggles. Go through the labour of being honest about struggle and sin. If we face our sin in truth, we will encounter His face of love. And His face is what we were after all along. Begin the journey, go through Lent in stillness, humbleness and reverence and I believe you will see the path you can show future generations to go.